HipHop is everywhere and we have all been uplifted by different elements of this culture whether we know it or not. If you’ve ever gasped at a breakdance performance, sung along to ‘Baby Got Back’ or been moved by the political messages in Banksy’s graffiti pieces, you have given energy to Hiphop’s culture and reinforced that Hiphop lives in all of us.The true ethos of HipHop as stated by the Godfather of this culture, Afrika Bambaataa, is: Peace, Love, Unity and Having Fun. The HipHop Lives brand is a celebration of this ethos and our goal is to positively change 1 million minds about Hiphop’s culture. The term is ‘Hiphop Lives – 1 Million Minds’ or HHL1m for short
T Damien Anyasi is a London-based dancer with 14 years professional experience. Specialising in Hiphop and funkstyle dances, he was on the choreographic team for the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony and was voted UK Dance Teacher of the Year 2014 by the readers of Dance Today magazine.
Through the HHL1m (‘Hip hop lives in 1 million minds’) label, he is seeking to change some public perceptions about Hiphop culture through uplifting messages, images and events. His dance education company, B‑Better, has been teaching people of all ages Hiphop and funkstyle dances for over 10 years and continues to grow in presence in the UK.
Q. What first got you interested in dance?
I kind of got into dance by accident, in some ways! I used to study at the London Music School as a vocalist and when I graduated I wanted to become more of an all-round performer, so I joined a dance group in Ladbroke Grove and things evolved from there.
Q. Anyone in particular that inspired you?
My biggest inspiration when I started out was probably my friend, Darren. We were working together and he introduced me to the dance group. Seeing him practice on the shop floor, I remember thinking that he was one of the most natural movers I’d ever seen. I’ve always had personal issues with how I move so there’s a great appreciation for those who do so effortlessly.
Q. Did you train in other styles of dance as well as hip-hop?
When I first started dance I had an interest in breakin’, and actually pursued it quite heavily — the physicality really spoke to me. Now I also list waacking and bachata as two other styles I enjoy.
Q. What do you think makes hip-hop dancing so special and sets it apart from other styles?
Hip-hop dance, at it’s root, is social, and the underlying groove that drives the dance is like no other. It’s constant evolution is driven by changes in music and isolations and ‘hits’ have become part-and-parcel of the modern style. The beats drive the motion!
Q. What was it like being on the choreographic team for the London 2012 opening ceremony?
Being involved in the creative process of the Olympics was unlike any other experience I’ve had, and may not be matched for a very long time. I learned so much about myself during the process, I’ve never been the same since. It was through this experience that I actually thought, “Bro, you’ve become a new person”. Learning to Lindy Hop, roller skate, trampoline, tap AND manage hundreds of volunteers at a time were just some of the life-enhancing experiences I had, but being called upon to share my specialisms was truly humbling and I am deeply, deeply thankful for that chapter in my life. We just celebrated our 3 year anniversary.
Q. Is there anyone who you’d really love to choreograph for?
I just created a performance group named Manifest Nation, so I’d say right now it’s them I’d like to choreograph for the most. Our youngest dancer is 7 years old, and I’m enjoying the process of developing a range of different talents. Outside of my group, I’d like to do a project with Sugar Rae from Germany and Alex The Cage from Belgium.
Q. What have been the other highlights of your career so far?
Being invited to teach in Azerbaijan a few years ago and getting to spend my birthday there was very memorable. I got bitten by a monkey on that day, so that was quite unique. Last year I was voted UK Dance Teacher of the Year in a particular publication and that was a real moment — I’ve still got so much to learn in that field. Also, winning my first battle — it was a small triumph in the grand scheme of things, but I really overcame some stuff to get to that point. I still struggle with that mindset sometimes.
Q. Tell us about HHL1M… What was the inspiration behind the project?
‘Hip Hop Lives in 1 million Minds’, is a term that came about when I considered that elements of HipHop culture are everywhere in our day-to-day lives, but many of us are either unaware or resistant to acceptance! I created the streetwear brand in the summer of 2014 when an opportunity arose to put my message in print, and have never looked back.
Through the message in the clothing and the work I do with my HipHop education company, B‑Better, I want to open or change 1 million minds about HipHop culture. Someone asked me once, “How will you measure it?” and my response was, “It will be obvious when the time comes”. I have methods!
Q. Where do you plan on taking this in the future?
I’ve always been conscious of trends in fashion since adolescence so I want to create garments people will want to wear as much for their comfort, fit and look as any message or image that is put on them. I’m always listening to the public to find out what they want — it’s important when growing a business. My next step with regards to design is to start using pictures which say ‘Hip Hop Lives’ without actually having to use words — it’s an exciting process!
The goal is to have a globally recognised brand and to create events and programs to celebrate HipHop culture whilst supporting those who live this culture but don’t get their voices heard. Recently there was a documentary called ‘Shake the Dust’ produced by Nas (yes, THAT Nas), that revealed how bboying is a dance form that has real following in places as far afield as Colombia and Yemen. THAT’S the kind of project I want to create. I’d want the local people to be part of the creation process, not just characters in the project. I’d like to believe that we can reach 1 million minds with projects like this.
LOOK OUT FOR SPECIAL DESIGNED HHL 1M T‑SHIRTS WITH A PERCENTAGE OF PROCEEDS GOING TO NO BOUNDS — ON SALE SOON!
Check out the selection of Tees and find out more about HHL 1M By visiting hhl1m.bigcartel.com
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